Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine’s Day ~ A New Vision

I can barely remember those bags full of colored Valentines that I exchanged with my grammar schoolmates, but I certainly remember the feeling. I was all tingly with crushes on boys. I couldn’t wait to blush and fat-pencil an anonymous note to the latest objects of my affection. Some people are late bloomers; I was precocious when it came to romance and its rush. I already had my eye in a guy in the first grade—OK, maybe way before that in the sandbox! I’m not sure, if this is typical or if I was a budding Lolita …

… but I’ve heard from my friends with young children that teachers now handle this exchange with the utmost sensitivity. Parents are asked to have their children send a Valentine to each student if they swap ‘tines. This makes a lot of sense to me for avoiding hurt feelings and for its underlying premise. There's something lovable about everyone you know, and Valentine’s is the Day to tell him or her.

Enlarging Love

While Valentine’s Day and the sweet cards also known as Valentines originally focused on romantic love, despite its starry-eyed history, this holiday has evolved to encompass all kinds of love. This may be as much a product of Hallmark advertising as opening our hearts. Either way, I vote for it! I send Valentines to special friends, relatives, and anyone I feel close to. The key is intimacy, affection, or the willingness to express appreciation.

I want to focus on the last concept—using Valentines to express appreciation. I had an experience once that feels similar to the teachers who ask that the children in their classes send a Valentine to everyone. At first, it may not sound like a story about Valentines of appreciation, but I’ll tell it because it shows they come in many forms.

In the early ‘80s, I was chair of the holiday entertainment committee in my wild and wacky office, comprised at the time mostly of 20- and 30-somethings who really liked to party. We put together a take-off on the Oscars. Our agency was relatively small—75 people tops. Since our work was in waste management and recycling, our “Oscar” was a gold painted tin can on a wooden base with Oscar the Grouch on the front, stuffed with paper “trash.” The fun was in the slide show. (Remember life before PowerPoint?) We must have had 20 or more Oscar categories. It came to me that this was our chance to include everyone. We made the decision that every person on staff would be nominated in one of the categories, even if each category had only one winner. We got a chance to show our affection for everyone by “roasting” him or her in a playful way, and it was hilarious! Often the reasons for the nominations were so appreciative of their uniqueness and funny, our colleagues could truly say, as do “real” Oscar nominees, “It was an honor just to be nominated.”

Toastmaster Valentines

Another place I exchange “Valentines” regularly is at my Toastmasters club. As is the tradition of Toastmasters, each speaker has an evaluator to give immediate feedback—both kudos and suggestions for improvement—after each speech. We’ve added something extra—the Valentine. This is a note of a line or two saying what we liked about each speaker’s presentation. I treasure mine. I keep them all! On a blue day, I dip into my Valentine’s box to read this warm ‘n’ fuzzy feedback.

Colleague Valentines

One year, one of my colleagues I have known for years cut out little hearts. She gave one to each member of our team with a note saying what she appreciates about us. I’ll never forget the thoughtfulness of it and the “warm flash” I got reading that she admires my writing skills. We like our spouses or partners to say, “I love you” often, but this goes for our friends and associates, too. This idea probably wouldn’t work in all offices, but our close working relationship in a predominately-female environment was an atmosphere where it felt totally appropriate. If your office has the qualities where you could “pull this off,” consider starting this great tradition—or the Toastmaster’s Valentine after your workmates give a major speech or other type of presentation.

Forget the Other Winter Holiday Cards—Send Valentines

I am posting this piece near the middle of February. I have still not sent most of my Christmas/ Solstice/ Chanukah cards with my annual newsletter. Of course, I’ll still send them as I can—late with apologies.

Like many people, I tend to forget what I learn. It’s the human psyche’s urge to forget what’s painful like childbirth or the criminal neglect of being unable to get it together to send a greeting card to a list of people you treasure once a bloody year. I had this great epiphany a few years ago. Why send the annual news at ChrismaSolstiChanuzaa, when you’re losing your mind from stress and a To Do List that looks longer than Santa’s checklist for all the children in the world?

I managed to pull it off once—sent my update newsletter in summer. Not only does it avoid the winter holiday rush. It makes your correspondence stand out. It’s not being read and barely absorbed by people who are holidazed, bloated, and maybe even brain dead.

In my embarrassment, (the cards and letters have been ready to go since just after Thanksgiving!), I am revisiting the idea again of sending off-cycle with Hallmark. Why not Valentine’s cards and an annual Valentine’s update? All people need is a little two-liner about why you appreciate them in a simple heart along with your general holiday letter. I bet your friends and family will treasure them as much as I do my short-but-sweet Toastmaster ‘tines.

Hug Your Honey, Create Traditions of Your Own

Back to romance and the beginnings of the St. Valentine’s Day. If you’re in a relationship, do you have a special ritual for this day? Tim and I had a late lunch at the Red Lobster in Dallas when we were first getting back together after decades apart. We have eaten lunch at a Red Lobster every Valentine’s Day since then. It’s a simple thing, but it reminds me of a line from a‘70s pop poet:

“Love is a season and holidays like signposts mark the time.” ~ Rod McKuen

Dinner at Red Lobster is a signpost, a sweet ritual of déjà food that takes us back each time to the wonder of our reconnection.

Not Currently in a Relationship?

Then this is your time to hug yourself. The best relationships with others evolve from good self-esteem and self-love.

You can create your own love and appreciation rituals that will increase your magnetism and feelings of being OK “either way,” whether you’re in a relationship or not. (Getting to that wonderful place often precedes finding Mr. or Ms. Right, since you are attracted more out of want than need.)

Ideas: spa day, writing yourself a Valentine’s list of everything you appreciate about yourself, having a makeover in the cosmetics department of your favorite fancy department store, taking a day off, writing and delivering your own Valentine’s of appreciation to others. Yes, it’s for them, but you’ll feel like a million bucks! Plus, you’ll see a bunch of people you love, even for just a few minutes, on Love Day.

The best idea I have ever encountered of this kind is a ritual in a book by Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (SARK), Transformation Soup. It’s a ritual for marrying yourself. No kidding! We did this ceremony together in my small women’s spirituality circle, and it was a potent reminder that all good connections emanate, first, from our relationship with ourselves. Since it’s copyrighted material, I can’t share the details here—but I encourage you, if interested, to check out SARK’s book and go for it! It’s on page 37 under the header, Being Your Own Partner.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Wishing much warmth to all our Cool Insighters, and as the old song goes—most of all, I wish you love.


Photo Credit: Funny © Olga Shchoukina

Blog Comment Contest! Don’t forget to comment for entry into this week’s comment contest for Valentine's month. Comments on any post qualify according to the guidelines in the announcement. Need how-to on commenting? Click on The Cosmos Comments.

Winner of Week 1 Comment Contest: Congratulations to Marie of Lake Tahoe who won a copy of my e-book, The Training Tape, in the Valentine’s Month comment contest. Week 1 ran from Feb. 1-7. Comment each week this month for another opportunity to win!


Eileen Williams said...

As always, your post is full of thought provoking ideas and great suggestions. I LOVE the idea of spreading Valentines whenever and wherever you can.

And, if you don't mind, I think I'll copy you (the greatest form of flattery, right?) and send my holiday greetings and newsletter out this summer. For the first year in decades, I decided not to send out cards. You're so right, I scan the ones I get, stuff them in a basket, and mean to get back to them after the holiday crazies have passed.

Now that I'm older and, perhaps, a bit more crotchety, I see all the waste involved. But I do want to stay in touch with friends I might not otherwise see. So they'll be getting a message from me as the sun boils down upon them--maybe it'll make for some good beach reading!

At any rate, thank you for the fabulous idea (among many) and, my dear friend, may you and your honey share a memorable, loving, and heart-filled Valentine's Day.

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, Eileen! Doing "ketchup" letters any time other than the winter holidays makes so much sense to me. We have never caught up from Christmas, so I suggested we do some phone calls this weekend. Same to you and yours. Have a wonderful Valentine's Day! Your friendship is V-Day all year. :)

Anonymous said...

Joycie having worked in "garbage and recycling" with you then, I remember that presentation and how we laughed over it and I also remember wearing my gold gargabe can necklace proudly and how many people whom I did not know would look at it, and ask "Do you love Oscar." It became such a funny thing! You are a true wordsmith and you make so many feel warm and fuzzy! I am so glad we met all those years ago! Happy V day!


Joyce Mason said...

Jessica, we can't often "boast" that we made a friend over conversations on the topics of garbage and litter boxes! Cats and trash turned out to be one of our many things in common, and I feel fortunate for our long friendship and all these great memories your comment evokes. I had forgotten about your cool, gold garbage can necklace which I always coveted! :) Glad the post was a warm fuzzy for you.

Pop Art Diva said...

I had a comment on my PopArtDiva Blog from a reader wondering why Valentine's Day is associated with romantic love and wishing it could be celebrated with the poor or elderly. My answer was that Valentine's Day is about love and love can be shared with anyone.

For me Valentine's Day is less a day of couples and love or single and rejected than it is about the appreciation of having people I love in my life.

Having lost many loved ones I now know how precious those I love are and this kind of love is far more valuable to me than romance.

I celebrate love in all it's forms (even the kind that comes wrapped in fur that barks or meows, lol) and February 14th is my day to tell those I love just how much I love them.

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, Pop Art, for your perspective on Valentine's Day, which I share. Why should gushing lovers get all the hugs and sweet talk, not to mention the loot? LOL! Seriously, I am so happy to see the trend away from celebrations only between romantic lovers. I knew someone in the UK who was surprised to know we have expanded our concept in the US. Apparently not everyone everywhere has joined the party.

You've given me a great idea. Maybe next year I can get some people together to bring Valentines to a nursing home or other senior facility. Anything that is a prompt to express more love in our lives gets my vote, or as one of my favorite quotes from A Course in Miracles goes, "Teach only love, for that is what you are." You've said it so well, and thanks for reminding us to do something special for our furbies today.